John Steven McGroarty

John Steven McGroarty Poems

John Steven McGroarty Biography

John Steven McGroarty was an American poet, journalist, lawyer and politician who served two terms as a Democratic Congressman.

He was born on the 20th August 1862 in a small settlement called Foster Township, Pennsylvania, the youngest of a large family of twelve children.  His parents were Irish immigrants and it was unlikely that there would have been the money to send him to prestigious educational establishments but he got a full education in public schools and at an academy in Wilkes-Barre.  He was a bright boy with ambitions to become a writer from an early age, his first poem being published in the Boston Pilot while he was still only ten years old.

On leaving school he worked in a number of places, performing at a fairly modest level and it was not until he reached the latter part of his twenties that McGroarty started to unveil his true potential.  After a three-year stint working as a civil servant with the Luzerne County treasury department, becoming the youngest ever Treasurer at just 27, he took a course to become a lawyer, being admitted to the bar in 1894.  He practiced law in Wilkes–Barre but was soon on the move again, this time to Montana to take up an executive role with a copper mining company.

He had been interested in becoming a writer for a number of years and finally achieved the ambition in 1901 when he moved to California and began writing a column in the Los Angeles Times.   He was also writing poetry for publication in newspapers and one, at this time was about the death of a German munitions manufacturer named Friedrich Krupp.  The poem was called
During the next two decades he wrote at length about the history of the state. 
was published in 1911 and then Mission Memories in 1929, the latter describing the Spanish Catholic missions that began in 1769 and eventually failed due to pressure from the people who rejected the secularisation of their way of life.  In 1935 he wrote another book about the early pioneers called California Plutarch. 

By this time McGroarty had been appointed Poet Laureate for California, serving in that role throughout 1933.  He often wrote jaunty, simple rhymes, espousing the joys of west coast living in a collection called
A good example from this collection is
The poem is reproduced here:
His love affair with California was interrupted in January 1935 though when he was elected to the Seventy-fourth United States Congress so he had to spend the next two years working on government legislation in Washington DC.  Clearly doing a good job he was re-elected for a further two-year term of office but it ended after that, in January 1939 when he failed to get re-nominated.  He tried for the post of Secretary of State for California but failed, thus turning his back on politics and returning to his writing and work as a journalist.

The following year he lost his beloved wife Ida after just short of 50 years of marriage.  They had lived together in a house that he built himself called “Chupa Rosa” and he spent his final few years there alone.

John Steven McGroarty died on the 7th August 1944 in a Los Angeles hospital.  He was 81 years old.